A crafty pin trending on Pinterest illustrating how to embroider a buttonhole as they did in the early 19th century, before the Industrial Age and the advent of the sewing machine, kicks my dirty mind into touch: move over, Pie – vagina’s got a new nickname! The sampler, a square of rough white linen, features the gape of four imperfect buttonholes framed by defiantly different designs stitched in white cotton thread, each a unique expression of the embroiderer’s artisanship and, I imagine, of the seamstress herself. From delicate to fierce, shyly tidy to ferociously flamboyant, each edged slit is a patient smile, as if in expectation of the button it had been sewn for. But, I wondered, what if a buttonhole suited a variety of buttons, or none at all, and unbuttoned, remained a thing of beauty, complete? I wondered about my own buttonhole, and the buttonholes of my sisters.
I have an old biscuit tin of vintage button cards accumulated over the years: everyday buttons, silk satin charmeuse fabric-covered buttons, darling, witty, exquisite buttons, buttons I may never get around to swapping out on the crisp white men’s dress shirts (thrift store finds) I pair with tight black leather leggings and high-heeled boots. Tender Buttons, on New York’s Upper East Side, in business for over 50 years, took its name from Gertrude Stein’s modernist book of poetry, published in 1914, each poem a look at familiar objects in a different way. The shop, its walls studded with button boxes organised by colour and type, from the quotidian to the rarest of fasteners, attracts designers and collectors and button hoarders like me. In an article published by www.jacket2.org, writer Charles Bernstein suggests Stein’s Tender Buttons alludes to nipples and clits, fasteners and women’s work.
Maybe it’s the resurgence of desire brought on by bioidentical hormone replacement after a fallow period of no periods and thinning vaginal walls, taut as vellum, making sex impossibly painful, but suddenly my buttons are tender again, and I’m looking at the familiar (eg my husband, though not limited to him) with fresh, well, eyes.
My girlfriends and I banter about sex over cocktails, but don’t discuss our sexuality.
Sexuality, like love, is mysterious. My girlfriends and I banter about sex over cocktails, but don’t discuss our sexuality. When it comes to trysts and crushes, flirts and brushes with strangers, we relish exchanging naughty details, but do we share our deepest longings? To whom have we confessed our darker desires? In 1862, Emily Dickinson wrote “The heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care”. What if we own our sexual selves, and manifest our wants? As women, many of us have been socialised to sublimate our needs; if sexuality is the erotic struggle between the desire to possess and be possessed, then we must feel free enough and safe enough to express both. In an episode of HBO’s The Deuce, a series focused on the sex-trade industry set in the early 1970s in New York’s Times Square, Abbey asserts during sex with her boss: “You’re not in control of this. I am.” Even Queen B Beyoncé felt compelled to leave the good girl behind, creating Sasha Fierce, the dangerously sexual alter ego she thrust upon the world stage in her 2002 Crazy in Love video, allowing her to twerk on the wild side. American hip-hop and R&B singer Lizzo’s huge body and big voice literally fill the screen; listen to Cuz I Love You as she unashamedly manifests her every want.
If, incarnate, we are the embodiment of spirit (Canadian theologian Sallie McFague says God loves bodies), then owning our sexuality may be considered a higher calling, the spirit tugging at us to waken to our higher selves through our bodies, through intimacy, through sexploration. Or maybe it’s just my bioidenticals kicking in.
THIS MONTH’S MOODBOARD
1. I’m perfecting my pout, inspired by Daantje Bon’s playfully subversive photograph. Follow her work @daantjebons.
2. I’m framing embroidered truths by Irish artist www.dominowhisker.com
3. I’m training my curves into an hourglass shape in Gossard’s Retrolution Plunge Slip. www.figleaves.com
4. I’m stashing my valuables in a Roisin Gartland pussy pouch from Stable of Ireland, The Westbury Mall, Dublin 2. 5. I’m puckering up in limited edition Rouge Dior Happy 2020 lipstick, €41.50, at Brown Thomas.
6. I’m tiptoeing through February in strappy Black Peony satin sandals; www.giuseppezanotti.com
7. I’m dabbing pulse points with Mon Guerlain Eau de Parfum Intense, €86.67, at Debenhams.
8. I’m sitting pretty in Minotti Miniforms Botera seats, upholstered in luscious womanly colours.
9. I’m painting my toes with Chanel Le Vernis nail colour, €25, at Arnotts.
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